Tzu Chi Foundation Partners with American Red Cross to provide flood relief

September 7, 2007
By Stephanie Carter
American Red Cross 

The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, U.S.A. set-up shop in the Old TRW building in Rushford over the Labor Day weekend, complete with soothing music. 38 volunteers were on an emergency relief mission in Minnesota focusing on Winona and Rushford.

Residents were eligible to receive financial support; $500 for homes which were destroyed and $300 for homes with major damage. Disaster victims received referrals from the American Red Cross.

Tzu Chi, meaning compassion relief, is an international charitable organization based out of Taiwan with over 5 million supporters and 30,000 certified members. The foundation provides charitable and medical services, humanitarian aid, and offers the largest bone marrow registry in Asia.  According to their website,, their ultimate goal is for each person who receives relief, be inspired to give comfort and companionship to other disaster victims in turn.

Amy Chong, a Tzu Chi volunteer said, “I quit my job 10 years ago and have traveled to 14 countries. I just want to help people. My heart goes out to these people.”

They were packing up and heading out the door when one last person stopped by and asked for consideration. Without hesitation, a Tzu Chi volunteer sat down and said, “I’ll wait for you.”

Amy Eden, Red Cross Service Center Manager for Rushford, said, “Clients are receiving assistance from the Red Cross. To receive further assistance from the Tzu Chi Foundation is good. They connect with people one-on-one. All Tzu Chi volunteers pay their own way and take time off their jobs to help people in need. They are very friendly and dedicated.”


 Written by Stephanie Carter, a volunteer with the Rappahannock Chapter of the American Red Cross assisting with the Minnesota/Wisconsin floods.

September 4, 2007

News Release Header

Contact: Laurel Goforth, 571-226-8267


Rochester, MN, September 4, 2007 – The American Red Cross is moving from the emergency phase of the flood disaster to the recovery phase. The Service Center in Rushford (Filmore County), MN, will close tomorrow, September 5, 2007 at 5pm. The American Red Cross will continue to help families affected by the flood by providing assistance and referrals. Red Cross operators are available 24 hours a day by contacting 1-866-GET INFO.There is absolutely no charge for any Red Cross disaster assistance. All disaster assistance is free — a gift from the American people. No repayment is required or expected.If you have been affected by the flood and need assistance, please contact the American Red Cross at 1-866-GET INFO.

September 4, 2007

News Release Header



Attention News Directors:

Please air this announcement immediately through September 5th, 2007


This is an IMPORTANT message from the American Red Cross for THOSE AFFECTED BY THE RECENT Minnesota/Wisconsin flood. The Red Cross will close its disaster relief Service Center IN RUSHFORD (Filmore county), minnesota tomorrow at 5pm. If you have been affected by the floods and STILL need assistance but have not been to a Red Cross Service Center, please do so as soon as possible. or call the Red Cross TOLL FREE at 1-866-GET-INFO.

Preparing to serve

September 4, 2007


Red Cross Client Service volunteers huddle at the Rushford, Minnesota Service Center. (American Red Cross Photo by Aaron Litwin)

The Red Cross: Making life easier

September 4, 2007
By Stephanie Carter
American Red Cross 

Driving through Rushford, Minnesota can leave quite an impression. Heirlooms, photos, and furniture are stacked along the roadside, mud-soaked and molding. Bobcats and dump trucks are clearing the debris. The stench is almost overpowering. People are working hard to clean up after the flood. And the Red Cross is present.


Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV) are driving up and down the neighborhood streets. Horns blaring announcing water and snacks available to anyone who needs it.

ERV driver Mike Welder is deployed from the Burleigh-Morton Chapter in Bismarck, North Dakota. He pulls over and knocks on Mr. and Mrs. Vier’s door. He knows this is an elderly couple who can not easily walk to the truck. He checks to make sure they are okay.


Red Cross volunteer and ERV passenger, Judy Welder hands Jerri Bellock snacks and cold water. Jerri is here for the Labor Day weekend helping her father clean the back side of his house. Her brother and sister also live in Rushford. Her brother lived in the trailer park located down the hill and lost everything. The front side of her sister’s home is severely damaged.


Judy encourages Bellock to keep the family talking about what happened, especially her elderly father, to help prevent depression.


The ERV continues on to the trailer park and meets up with Alfred Semerad. His trailer is a complete loss and before long, the city will require the residents to leave so demolition can begin. But until then, he visits his trailer four hours a day, recovering his “treasures.” He collects coins and arrowheads. “I dug the arrowheads out of the ground from all across the country. And now I’m digging them out of the muck from inside my trailer,” he said.


He’s wearing rubber boots which he received from the Red Cross. The boots are covered in mud. He says the smell is familiar because he “used to work in the barn barefoot.” Judy hands him several face masks.


Judy says, “We aren’t just fulfilling the need of these people but also a need within ourselves.”

At the time he was evacuated Alfred says, “I barely had time to grab my teeth. The water was knee deep and it was cold.”


He points to the water line on the side of another trailer – measuring about 8 feet.

Each day the Red Cross stops by. He says, “I’ve received some cash and food and high powered soaps and detergents. They’ve been really nice to me.”

 He has attend local long term recovery planning meetings held by various community and faith-based organizations. The Red Cross has been in attendance as well. 

Chet Blue is an AKAL security guard working for FEMA out of Rushford’s Old TRW building. The Red Cross Client Service Center is stationed in the same building. He has previously worked with the Red Cross as a medic and firefighter. He says, “This crew deserves the highest recommendation. They work 12-hour days and never complain. They make sure everyone is fed or has cold water.”


Chet continues, “Some nights, these guys are wrapping up and leaving for the night when someone will drive up and without hesitation they help them. I’m impressed by the compassion shown by all the Red Cross volunteers who are assigned to this disaster.”


He refers to Red Cross volunteer, Jim Bryan, also known as Santa. Chet relates, “On his only day off, Jim came over and picked up our uniforms and laundered them for us. He’s phenomenal.” Jim is only one of many volunteers he mentioned who “is making life easier.”


 Written by Stephanie Carter, a volunteer with the Rappahannock Chapter of the American Red Cross assisting with the Minnesota/Wisconsin floods.

The Red Cross, a place to start

August 31, 2007
By: Donna Walker
American Red Cross


In the aftermath of a flood amidst the dust and destruction, a dazed, where-to-begin feeling mixes in with the muddy mess. For one Winona family, the American Red Cross provided a place to start.

Gaby Juarez took refuge with her parents and her son at her aunt’s trailer-park home in St. Charles, Minn. Others in the park had been evacuated but her aunt, Maria Loera, didn’t get the word.

“My home is higher up,” Loera explained. The day-long rain and buildup of water around her trailer didn’t keep Loera and her family from retiring for the evening as rain continued. Not even the 2 a.m. arrival of her sister’s family caused too much worry.

When she awoke in the morning, Loera began to open a window and noticed water seeping in. She called 9-1-1 and a boat was sent to rescue them. In all, nine were evacuated – Maria and her husband and daughter, her sister, brother-in-law, niece and grand-nephew. The cat and the dog made nine.

Loera’s niece, Gaby, left for her second shelter and headed for a friend’s house. Loera went to a son’s house.

“It’s tremendous how everyone is helping, volunteers and neighbors. It hits you and stops you and you can’t think what to do next. This is a place to start,” Juarez said.

Juarez and Loera were two of more than 300 clients served at the Red Cross Service Distribution Center in Winona. Upon leaving the table at which a client caseworker took her information, Juarez had a guarantee of a month’s rent if her landlord fills out the proper forms.

“With all that’s going on, some of us can’t work,” she said.

But Juarez’ mom has since hurt her knee from constant pressure while kneeling to reach for clothes stored for the time being in garbage bags; and from climbing in and out of sleeping bags. Her mother is now on crutches.

“I’m taking it one day at a time and my main concern today is finding a bed for my mom to sleep in,” she said. “There come moments when we’re just so dazed. We just feel so clueless and don’t know what to do. Red Cross is a place to start.”

Juarez and Loera are receiving help as they move forward a day at a time.

“We have life,” Loera said. The Red Cross provided Loera with clean-up supplies, food, clothes, shampoo, pillows, blankets in the immediate aftermath.

“That’s good people. That’s beautiful people.”

Donna Walker ia a volunteer with the Iowa Rivers Chapter of the American Red Cross assisting with the Minnesota/Wisconsin floods.

Update for Minnesota/Wisconsin Relief Operation

August 31, 2007

Fast Facts Header

Shelters/Evacuation Centers Open: 0 

Fixed Feeding Units: 5 Mobile Feeding Units/ERVs

11 Service Delivery Sites: Two (2) closing today (Northrop and Steele). Three (3) remain open (Soldier’s Grove, Rushford & Winona)

# of EOCs Open: 0

# of EOCs w/ Red Cross: 0

Emergency Aid Stations: 1 (Rushford)